Matt Brundage

Archive for the 'religion' category

Tuesday, 10 January 2006

Movie Standards

I wonder if sometimes my standards are set to high. Do I expect too much from people? Was it wrong for me to veto a rental of The 40-Year-Old-Virgin because the movie was rated Morally Offensive by the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops? Granted, I probably would have vetoed it even if it hadn’t achieved such status.

Thursday, 1 September 2005

The terrorist, Katrina

How quickly he forgets. Muhammad Yousef Al-Mlaifi, a director at Kuwaiti’s Ministry of Endowment, believes that Hurricane Katrina was a “soldier of Allah.”

“But how strange it is that after all the tremendous American achievements for the sake of humanity, these mighty winds come and evilly rip [America’s] cities to shreds? Have the storms joined the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization?

…I began to read about these winds, and I was surprised to discover that the American websites that are translated [into Arabic] are talking about the fact that that the storm Katrina is the fifth equatorial storm to strike Florida this year… and that a large part of the U.S. is subject every year to many storms that extract [a price of] dead, and completely destroy property. I said, Allah be praised, until when will these successive catastrophes strike them?

“…I opened the Koran and began to read in Surat Al-R’ad [‘The Thunder’ chapter], and stopped at these words [of Allah]: ‘The disaster will keep striking the unbelievers for what they have done, or it will strike areas close to their territory, until the promise of Allah comes to pass, for, verily, Allah will not fail in His promise.’ [Koran 13:31].”

What Muhammad is failing to remember is last year’s Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami which killed 200,000 people — about half of which were Muslims from Indonesia. I’m willing to bet Muhammad didn’t call that disaster a “Christian soldier” or a harbinger from the United States. Muhammad is also forgetting about the chronic earthquakes in Turkey and Iran, two countries that are about 99% Muslim.

Monday, 15 August 2005

Zakat and today’s tax code

Some say that Islam’s third pillar, Zakat, was the forbearer of the graduated tax code. Today’s tax code is even more extreme than the ideal proscribed in Zakat. Islam’s across the board tax is a flat tax, not a graduated (progressive) tax. While Zakat implores that 2.5% of one’s annual holdings be given to charity, for it to be a truly graduated code, this percentage would have to be progressively higher as the scale of wealth ascends. For example, one with modest holdings would give 2%, one with holdings over $500,000 would give 2.5%, one with holdings over $1,000,000 would give 3% and so on. A similar type of progressive tax code is one of the major facets of the Communist Manifesto, and has been a part of the US income tax code since World War I.

Tuesday, 9 August 2005

The ideal of jihad has been corrupted

It’s quite sad that it’s come to the point where a proper study of Islamic culture must be prefaced with the explanation “Not all Muslims are terrorists”. But it’s obvious why the “stereotypical terrorist” is Muslim, as the great majority of terrorist acts in the past 30 or so years have been committed by fundamentalist Muslim extremists.

That the Oklahoma City bombing wasn’t committed by Muslim extremists doesn’t explain away their growing track record:

1998, the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed … 2000, The USS Cole was attacked and more than 15 American Sailors were killed in Yemen … 11 Sept 2001, four airliners were hijacked and destroyed and thousands of people were killed … 2002 reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and beheaded … 31 July 2002 5 Americans were killed by a Palestinian HAMAS bomber in Jerusalem while attending school … 12 Oct 2002 more than 200 innocent civilians (including 200 Australians and 5 Americans) were brutally murdered in a Bali nightclub … 29 Oct 2002 more than 700 Moscow theater goers were taken hostage and threatened with execution … 11 Mar 2004 Madrid train bombings which killed 191 people and wounded 1,460 … 1-3 Sept 2004, Beslan, Russia school children taken hostage; 344 civilians were killed, at least 172 of them children, and hundreds more wounded … 7 July 2005 London bombings, 56 people were killed in the attacks, with 700 injured …

*Note that these specific atrocities were not committed within the context of declared wars.

To put this into perspective, there are over 1,000,000,000 peace-loving Muslims in the world who are not extremists. The idea of jihad has been corrupted by extremists to the degree that it justifies the murder of innocent people (especially Jews, Christians, and Westerners) for the purpose of instilling fear and terror into peoples and governments. That some Americans react negatively to the concept of “Arab” or “Muslim” is a testament to the terrorists’ effectiveness in instilling fear and terror.

When law enforcement and government agents are assigned the task of looking for terrorists, it seems prudent to me to profile people who are most likely to be terrorists. Put another way, instead of confiscating the nail file of an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s, we should be looking for terrorists. It’s all about statistics. It would be absurd to ignore them. A distinction should be made between statistical profiling and racial profiling, the latter of which is prejudicial and not based upon common sense.

Monday, 8 August 2005

To the death

Many of Jesus’ disciples were eventually put to death for preaching the gospel after Christ’s resurrection. They were willing to die spreading His word. Something of enormous importance must have happened after Christ’s death. One could hypothesize that the disciples would have gone back to being fishermen and carpenters had Jesus not rose from the grave and appeared in the flesh to them.

Sunday, 7 August 2005

Jesus and Jewish law

Jesus never “doubted” the Jewish doctrine. For in Matthew 5:17-18, Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of the pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah is compatible with Jewish doctrine. He had immense respect for the law.

Also see John 1:16-17: “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” The laws of Moses exist partially to underscore how extremely hard they are to follow, and ultimately, the futility of salvation through human actions alone. Jesus was literally the last sacrifice — His death and resurrection constituted the fulfillment of Mosaic law.

Friday, 5 August 2005

“…surely I am with you always…”

Our church has a mission statement — a statement that defines who we are as a community. “In Christ, we are bread for one another. Broken, we gather. Nourished, we reach out.” The statement hints at the community — gathered in Christ’s name — that becomes the body of Christ. Not in the manner of transubstantiation, but more along the lines of Christ’s words, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” (John 15:5) Belonging to a community of believers means a certain solidarity with the mystical body of Christ. The various church communities would be the arms, the eyes, the legs, the hands of Christ, and taken as a whole, would constitute the body of Christ.

Lamb of GodEkklesia is indeed an appropriate term for Christians because it recognizes the communal aspects of the religion. Worship services and masses are central to the Christian faith because they bring people together as “one bread, one body”. It is possible to be a Christian hermit, but the community of believers and the presence of Christ enrich the experience. In other religions, in particular Theravada Buddhism, the individual is given precedence over the community and the worship of deities isn’t stressed. As Buddha said, “…work out your own salvation…”

Christ’s presence within the church body is spiritual, and — for many Christians — visible as well. During the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the bread, through the miracle of transubstantiation, becomes the body of Christ. Within the hallowed confines of a worship space, Christ’s spiritual presence is experienced, the bread is transformed into the body of Christ, and the community of God commemorates it. Our church’s mission statement acknowledges both the mystical body of Christ, and His body, which we commemorate in the Eucharist.

Jesus’ farewell words, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age…” (Matthew 28:20) assure us that He will continue to grace us with his spiritual presence when we gather in His name. Early Christians probably took this to heart. His farewell words were resonating in peoples’ heads, and the thought of Jesus being spiritually present was probably in the forefront of people’s minds. I believe today this is not always the case. In some churches, a casual atmosphere detracts from one sensing the “mystical body of Christ.” In others, Eliade’s “sacred space” can be felt just by walking up the front stairs. In short, the mystical body of Christ is not just something Christians believe in theory, but it’s something they can experience.

Sunday, 24 July 2005


What I like best about the Confucianist principle of jen is that “subsidiary attitudes follow automatically…”, meaning that if we possess the qualities of jen, we don’t really need to worry about the details because our overall conduct will reflect it. It’s as if you’re a changed person, a la 2 Corinthians 5:17.

Saturday, 16 July 2005

The Bodhisattvic Quandary

Is it possible for a human being to feel compassion for all living beings? It is an ideal that is to be strived for, but is rarely, if never, achieved. It is akin to asking “Do you think it is possible for a human being to never sin?” In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you. That’s a tough command to follow! Personally, I don’t have any real enemies — I am familiar with people whose actions I don’t agree with, but there is no one whom I would consider my enemy. Furthermore, I find it hard enough to love everyone who isn’t my enemy. Being altruistic and compassionate in all circumstances is admirable in virtually every faith. Bodhisattvas who meditate to become universally compassionate by definition haven’t yet reached the point where they are truly universally compassionate. It’s human nature not to be altruistic.

Is it desirable for a person to have unlimited compassion? Let me answer this question with a few more questions. Does the bodhisattva (who is perpetually storing up good karma) experience suffering? i.e. does he experience the desire to obtain nirvana, and therefore, experience suffering? With compassion and altruism comes sacrifice. Jesus Christ, in the Garden of Gethsemane, was the tortured bodhisattva — he knew that his altruistic suffering came with a price — extreme physical torture. In a similar vein, does the Buddhist bodhisattva experience prolonged mental torture when he realizes that to perpetually be a bodhisattva mean an existence forever outside the realm of nirvana? A fundamental difference between Jesus and a Buddhist bodhisattva is that Jesus’ store of “good karma”, if you will, is infinite. A bodhisattva’s karma is derived from good deeds and exemplary actions, while Jesus’ “karma” is derived from a solitary experience (death on the cross) that epitomizes God’s grace.

Sunday, 10 July 2005

Just a little bit more

In church today, our priest talked about a survey that was conducted among people earning over $100,000 annually. A question was asked of them: “What do you fear most?” The answer most gave was “Not having enough money to live comfortably.” The follow-up question: “How much is enough?” “Just a little bit more.” Even poor and starving people will not be satisfied with incremental blessings and increases of money/possessions. We all (myself included) want just “a little bit more…”